I was reading the profile of the Headmaster of Camille's new school and was struck by the following sentence: "An avid traveler, he has visited all 50 United States and 16 foreign countries". All 50 states is really cool and not that easy to do. A quick poll of friends found that my 42 states is among the highest but that my 15 countries is just about average, dwarfed by a few friends in the high 30s.
Sailing actually brought me to many of those countries (though as a starting point for a backpacking adventure). But I have to say that the most obscure and exotic location I've been to is the Azores (currently a Portuguese Autonomous Region). We arrived in Horta after an absolutely crappy 24 hours of storms that let up around 6A as the island came into view. Daylight landfalls are always nice.
When I think about our week there, a few things are most prominent. The first was that, other than locals, every single person there arrived by water and it made for an incredible community spirit in the overcrowded marina. Second was our six-deep raft up on the seawall that included boats from Finland, Germany, UK, Holland, and the US (we were at the end and had to climb over those other boats to get to shore...the mass of docklines was incredible). Third, the hippies' and the drunken Norwegians' fight over the Norsemen's refusal to look at a pretty sunset. Fourth, spicy ketchup.
What isn't really integral to my memories of Horta is our wall painting. Oh, I remember doing it and enjoying doing it, but it really didn't crack the top 10. Yet, when I think about Horta now, I wonder whether our wall painting is still there, old and faded or if somebody has painted over that space in the subsequent 14 years. In case you aren't aware there's a tradition of mariners painting on the seawall for good luck and fair winds...stores sell overpriced little tubs of paint and just about everyone stakes out a space with beer bottles and starts painting a few days before they leave. Here's an example:
Susannah and I painted along a step where we did an underwater scene on the flat part and Zorra sailing at her mighty 4 knot speeds on the vertical section. This started my long artistic career of painting unrealistic looking fish. I even think we took a stab at creating an accurate portrayal of the keel. Probably not a masterpiece but a great reminder to others that the Azores are a very important part of my 15.